Anyone who has an interest in the art of growing bonsai plants must first be willing to make a long-term commitment; there is no easy shortcut and no substitute for patience. The creation of a true bonsai is an art, and like any of the arts, it requires serious work and dedication. Talent is of course a valuable bonus, but if the desire to create is there, study and practice will overcome a multitude of obstacles.
The accepted records show that bonsai, the art of growing miniature trees in pots, originated back in the 12th century in China and spread from there to Japan. Nowadays the Japanese are generally credited with perfecting the art, but almost by definition, bonsai is not a ‘perfect’ presentation. Nothing in nature (or for that matter man-made) is perfect by everyone’s standards, but part of the attraction for bonsai enthusiasts is the challenge in trying to make it so.
The ultimate challenge is to coax, persuade and gently manipulate a growing plant to take on the form of the same plant if it had grown for many years in its natural environment. Different styles of bonsai training were developed long ago by the Orientals, each style suitable for different types of plants. The growth and form of a specific tree as the result of nature’s vagaries – drought, flood, wind, ice, lightning and other factors must be studied carefully and then reproduced artificially, in miniature.
There are bonsais that have been trained meticulously in tiny increments for literally hundreds of years, and unofficial reports of some believed to be as old as 2,000 years or more. Granted, bonsai do not have to be 100 years old to qualify under most guidelines, but there can be no true bonsai without informed study, extremely careful work and realistically at least a few years of constant, personal human guidance.